Consumer demand for plant-based foods is higher than ever—and luckily, there have never been more delicious, innovative plant-based products on the market to meet that demand. That’s why PBFA and Kroger recently teamed up once again to host the third annual (and second virtual) VegFest: A live online showcase of plant-based products and possibilities—featuring PBFA member companies—exclusively for Kroger employees!

Led by PBFA’s own Jennifer Jacobs and Kroger’s Assistant Commodity Manager for Poultry, Marcellus Harris, this year’s VegFest lineup was a dynamic, star-studded affair: During the event, we were joined live by celebrity chef Charity Morgan, Top Chef star and Eat the Change co-founder Spike Mendelsohn, and Hodo Foods founder and chef Minh Tsai for three cooking demonstrations that showcased plant-based products and proved just how easy it is to create crave-worthy dishes that put plants center stage. 

Chef Minh Tsai kicked things off with a mouthwatering Hodo Foods tofu bowl featuring fresh farmer’s market veggies—and a quick salad jar version for folks on the go—and Chef Spike Mendelsohn cooked up a tasty mushroom quesadilla featuring plant-based cheeses, Eat the Change habañero mushroom jerky, and homemade salsa. Chef Charity Morgan closed with a bang by sharing her beginner-friendly barbecue-stuffed baked potato recipe, which included Beyond Meat brats and other plant-based trimmings.

“I had a wonderful time and it was amazing to have the Kroger team come together and host such a fun event that makes a real difference for the plant-based foods.”

– Chef Spike Mendelsohn

VegFest also featured a comprehensive plant-based nutrition workshop led by registered dietician Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, who has managed health programs for Kroger for over a decade and specializes in vegetarian nutrition and food intolerances. A plant-based eater herself, Molly discussed the many sources and benefits of plant-based protein and how plant-based eating can offer a balanced nutrition portfolio for consumers across the diet spectrum. “Kroger VegFest was a terrific opportunity to gather with like-minded plant-curious companies and associates to learn about creative ways plants can be a bigger part of our lives and diets,” said Molly, after the event. “The food ideas and demonstrations, nutrition information, and brand insights were inspiring and paint a picture of a future where plant-based foods aren’t just the ‘alternative,’ but the norm.”

Finally, VegFest wrapped with a unique, quickfire virtual sampling event, where PBFA members showcased their products with brand videos and TikTok-style shorts. VegFest participating members included Barvecue, Beyond Meat, Califia Farms, CocoNifty, Cutting Vedge, Deliciou, Eat the Change, Field Roast, Future Farm, Gourmet Evolution, Hodo Foods, Hope & Sesame, Lightlife, MeliBio, Must Love, O’MY! Dairy Free Gelato, Only Plant Based Foods, Outstanding Foods, OZO, Planterra Foods, Riff, SimplyProtein, Strong Roots, and Unisoy.

We’re proud to partner with Kroger, the nation’s largest retailer, to promote the power of plant-based and help consumers access a diversity of plant-based products. “The [Kroger and PBFA] partnership we’ve created and the hard work that goes into making this a success is invaluable and thoroughly appreciated,” said Kroger’s Marcellus Harris. Chef Minh Tsai added: “Kroger VegFest highlights the important role PBFA plays in partnerships with retail grocers, fostering conversations about trends and innovations. It was fantastic to learn from other leaders in the plant-based arena, and fun to showcase the versatility and tastes that center the deliciousness and nutrient density of Hodo’s line of products to the Kroger associates.”

We can’t wait to see what next year’s VegFest has in store! Here’s what other participating PBFA members had to say about this year’s festivities:

“What an incredible experience to participate in Kroger’s VegFest 2021.  The rapid growth of the plant based category is not only exciting, but also very important to the health of all of us, and our planet. Future Farm is so excited and inspired to be part of this category and movement. With our current launch into the US market, after growing sales in 24 countries over the past two years, the timing for this event could not have been more perfect.

Kroger’s VegFest 2021 was the ideal combination of education, industry connecting, and FUN!  The cooking demonstrations by the talented and entertaining chefs were literally mouth-watering.  Our only wish is that we could have tasted all of that yummy food they were cooking!  Kroger Dietician, Molly Hembree’s expertise on the Vegan Diet was excellent and informative.  Industry members offering suggestions and feedback in the chat was the true spirit of community.  Thank you so much to PBFA and Kroger for this wonderful event.  Future Farm looks forward to continuing to build this partnership.  And we can’t wait for Kroger VegFest 2022!” – Michelle Mouser, Sr. Sales Director, Future Farm

“O’MY Dairy Free Gelato was excited to join PBFA in educating and celebrating the bounty and deliciousness of Plant Based cuisine with our Kroger partners.” – Allison Monette, Co-founder & CEO, O’MY Dairy Free Gelato 

“It is so impressive to see all the innovation in the space, we are so lucky to be a part of it and we know it will have a big impact on the world.” – Margie Clark, Direct of Sales & Marketing, Must Love

“It was great having real time feedback and dialogue with the Kroger team during VegFest!  There was strong brand representation, and the attendee comments were extremely positive.  We enjoyed seeing participants’ reactions when our celebrity chef, Carla Hall, specially mentioned shopping at Kroger for her plant-based recipe ingredients!” – Steve Mair, Senior Director, National Accounts, Califia Farms

“Our team at Eat the Change felt very privileged to be part of Kroger Vegfest 2021! We appreciated the opportunity to connect with the Kroger team, and it was inspiring to join this group of likeminded brands in the PBFA community innovating with delicious plant-based foods and recipes. Chef Spike had a blast showcasing his mushroom quesadilla recipe with all the fixings and we hope it will inspire others to get cooking with Eat the Change jerky! We felt the event was very engaging and the prep and communication from PBFA was very well organized and helpful. Again, thank you for inviting us to participate and we hope to be part of this event and other similar PBFA events in the future!” –  Stephanie Riederman, Marketing Director, Eat the Change

“Despite being virtual, Kroger VegFest was fun and engaging! We appreciated the chance to showcase Barvecue and give away a sampler pack to a lucky winner! My favorite part of the day was watching cooking demos from incredible chefs, especially Chef Charity Morgan. It was wonderful to network with the Kroger community and we can’t wait for the next one.” Kelsey Joseph, Director of Business Development, Barvecue

“The Kroger VegFest held on September 29, 2021 was an educational and exciting experience for those who attended. The event offered a unique opportunity for emerging plant-based brands to benefit from Kroger’s experience at a level most small brands only dream of.  Molly’s nutrition presentation was insightful and important for positioning plant-based products as a healthy choice for any diet. The chef demos were a success as they covered a variety of useful approaches with plant-based foods. Chef Brandon’s interactions were personable and fun. Kroger’s forward thinking and initiative to stay in front of plant-based trends is admirable. Their commitment to working with PBFA helps them to maintain a leadership position and build a future that works for all of us.” – George Vutetakis, CEO, Only Plant Based Foods